10 Surprising Facts About Meghan Markle's Wedding Tiara
Much like everything else surrounding Meghan Markle and the royal family, her choice of tiara on her wedding day raised eyebrows, made headlines, and stirred up some serious royal controversy. On May 19, 2018, Meghan married Prince Harry in a lavish, televised ceremony at Windsor Castle, where her sleek Givenchy wedding dress (designed by British designer Clare Waight Keller) caused a buzz amongst fans of the royal family, who marveled at its elegant silhouette and modern design. The Duchess of Sussex's headpiece also caught viewers' attention: an Art Deco-style diamond-encrusted band that, in Meghan's own words, appealed to her because it was "incredibly timeless but still [felt] modern."
It turns out there was much more to the story behind how she came to choose Queen Mary's bandeau tiara—and it involved rumors of tension between the bride-to-be and Queen Elizabeth, as well as rumblings of discord between Prince Harry and the queen's dresser, Angela Kelly. The reason all allegedly boiled down to Meghan's first choice tiara, the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara (otherwise known as the Russian emerald headdress), along with difficulties working with Kelly. Upon the release of Prince Harry's highly-anticipated memoir, Spare, we finally have an inside look at what really went down during the selection process for Meghan Markle's wedding tiara.
Which Tiara Did Meghan Markle Wear on Her Wedding Day?
The tiara Meghan Markle ultimately wore on her big day is known as Queen Mary's bandeau tiara, a royal family heirloom on loan from Her Majesty the Queen. Comprised of a flexible band of 11 different sections, each covered in large and small diamonds, the diamond tiara's main focal point is a detachable brooch with a center stone surrounded by nine smaller diamonds. Traditionally, the tiara has been spotted with a sapphire as the center stone, but Meghan opted to swap the blue jewel out for a diamond instead (also lent to her by Queen Elizabeth).
On an audio recording for a royal exhibit at Windsor Castle, Meghan noted that the tiara caught her eye because it was "so clean and simple," much like her Givenchy wedding dress. She styled the piece with a 16-foot silk tulle veil embroidered with 53 flowers representing each country in the British Commonwealth, along with a California poppy, the official flower of her home state.
The History of Queen Mary's Diamond Bandeau Tiara
Queen Mary's diamond bateau tiara was made out of a brooch she had received as a gift from the County of Lincoln in 1893 when she married the then-future King George V. Various photographs show Queen Mary wearing the brooch pinned on her clothing—but in 1932, she enlisted the help of jewelry company Garrard to create something more versatile. Through this partnership, the Queen Mary diamond bateau tiara was constructed. In 1951, she was photographed wearing the tiara at the premiere of the comedy film The Lavender Hill Mob.
Upon Queen Mary's death in 1953, she left the impressive bandeau tiara to Queen Elizabeth II in her will.
Who Else Has Worn Queen Mary's Bandeau Tiara?
Meghan Markle borrowed her diamond tiara from Queen Elizabeth, who had, in turn, inherited it from her grandmother, Queen Mary. In addition to Queen Mary, the diamond tiara has also been worn by her daughter-in-law, Princess Marina of Kent, who wore it to a ball in 1935, but otherwise has largely stayed out of the public eye. In fact, the Queen Mary diamond bateau tiara remained in the royal vault for 65 years until Meghan Markle's wedding day in 2018.
Other tiaras passed down to Queen Elizabeth have gotten more play, including the fringe tiara, which the Queen wore for her own wedding in 1947, and the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara. Much as the Cambridge Lovers' Knot tiara is now most closely linked to Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, the Queen Mary bandeau tiara is now most closely linked to Meghan.
Did Meghan Markle Keep Her Wedding Tiara?
As is custom for royal brides, Meghan Markle did not keep her wedding tiara. Since the jewel was on loan from the queen, it was returned to the royal vault after the big day. This was also the case for others who wore tiaras from the queen, such as Princess Anne and Princess Beatrice. One royal who did not return her wedding tiara, though, was Sarah Ferguson. It's believed that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip gave her the York tiara as a wedding gift, which is why she kept the jewel.
What Tiara Did Meghan Markle Want to Wear?
Although Meghan Markle's wedding tiara was nothing short of spectacular, reports indicated that the Queen Mary diamond bateau crown wasn't the sparkly accessory she originally had in mind.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were interested in one of Princess Diana's tiaras.
In Prince Harry's memoir Spare, which was released on January 10, 2023, he opened up about the drama surrounding Meghan Markle's wedding tiara. He wrote that he and his bride-to-be were "touched" by the idea of wearing one of Princess Diana's tiaras—but they were encouraged to select a different piece of jewelry from her collection instead of a crown.
The Bandeau Tiara was reportedly not her first choice.
Once Meghan Markle was told she couldn't wear one of Princess Diana's tiaras for her wedding, she and Prince Harry were presented with five other options, one of which included emeralds and another that included aquamarine gemstones. According to The Sun, Meghan had originally wanted to wear the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara, also known as the Russian emerald headdress—but was told by the Queen that it would not be appropriate for her to wear that particular crown. While Prince Harry doesn't confirm this in his book, he wrote that one tiara "stood out from the others" and "looked like it was made for Meg."
Royal historian Robert Lacey clarified in his book, Battle of Brothers: William and Harry – The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult, that the reason Queen Elizabeth had rejected Meghan's first choice was a reasonable one: because the emerald tiara was said to have been possibly Russian, meaning that it could have been acquired in an unsavory way. Long story short, the tiara was linked to scandal, and so the Queen thought it best not for Meghan to wear it for fear of bad luck.
Why was Eugenie allowed to wear the emerald tiara?
Despite rumors that the Queen didn't want Meghan to wear the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara for superstitious reasons, the crown actually did make its way into another royal wedding: Princess Eugenie's wedding to Jack Brooksbank just six months later. This marked the first time that a member of the royal family wore the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara in public. Since many expected Eugenie to wear the York diamond tiara that her mother, Sarah Ferguson, also wore on her wedding day, the choice to wear the emerald headpiece was unexpected.
Her sister, Princess Beatrice, wore another well-known tiara of Queen Mary's for her wedding nearly two years later: the diamond fringe tiara, which the Queen wore for her own nuptials to Prince Philip in 1947.
Surprising Facts About Meghan Markle's Wedding Tiara
Fans of the royal family were eager to know all the details of Meghan Markle's head-turning wedding day look, including her glittery diamond tiara. But beyond just getting to know all about the Queen Mary bandeau tiara, much of the public was intrigued by how Meghan came upon her choice. As is tradition, Meghan did not don the tiara prior to her big day, meaning that it was anyone's guess which of Queen Elizabeth's many stunning headpieces the Duchess of Sussex would decide upon. When it came time to reveal her pick, Meghan wowed with the Art Deco-style Queen Mary headpiece. Then, six months later, a bombshell: The Sun released a story that would lead to what was widely known as "tiaragate," sparking rumors that Meghan's decision wasn't, perhaps, so clean-cut after all.
Prince Harry had tensions with the Queen's dressmaker.
Then, another plot twist. Royal experts Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand rejected claims that there was ever any issue between the Queen and Meghan in their book Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family. Instead, Scobie and Durand wrote, the tension over the tiara was actually between Prince Harry and the Queen's dresser, Angela Kelly. The royal journalists noted that the prince took issue with how slow Kelly was in getting the tiara to Meghan during a pre-wedding hair trial, and that was the actual source of frustration. Queen Elizabeth actually didn't take any issue with Meghan's choice of tiara, Scobie and Durand wrote.
Prince Harry seemingly confirmed this report in Spare. Once it was decided that Meghan Markle's wedding tiara would be the Queen Mary diamond bateau crown, he alleges that Kelly was "silent" when the couple asked to borrow the headpiece to test it with her hairstylist. After over a week of waiting, Kelly told the couple that the tiara couldn't leave the palace without "an ordinance and police escort," which Harry called "exaggerated." He added, "It was obvious they were putting up obstacles, but why? It didn't occur to us what motives they might have."
The Queen Mary diamond bandeau tiara is one of the most valuable royal crowns.
So, what is the Queen Mary diamond bateau tiara worth? Experts estimate that the headpiece is valued at about £2 million—which converts to about $2.4 million US dollars. It's one of the most expensive tiaras in the late Queen Elizabeth's collection.
Meghan said searching for her wedding tiara was "surreal."
Despite the dramatic headlines surrounding Meghan Markle's wedding tiara, the bride herself spoke highly of the selection process. In the audio recording for the royal wedding outfits exhibition at Windsor Castle in 2019, the Duchess revealed exactly what the experience was like. "Harry and I had gone to Buckingham Palace to meet with Her Majesty The Queen to select one of the options that were there, which was an incredibly surreal day, as you can imagine," she reminisced. "That [diamond bateau tiara] was the one that I think as we tried them on stood out; I think it was just perfect because it was so clean and simple, and I think also at that point an extension to what Clare and I had been trying to do with the dress, which was have something that could be so incredibly timeless but still feel modern."